How Meditation Supports My Diabetes Self-care
The mental health aspects of life with type 2 diabetes are often ignored. Sure, effective diabetes self-care demands healthy eating, regular exercise, and often medication. But stress, left unaddressed, can raise blood glucose levels and undermine self-care.1
In short, if you don’t manage the stress in your life it will get in the way of effectively managing the diabetes in your life. Mindful meditation offers an effective way to better manage stress and diabetes.
Life with diabetes has many stresses
We all face many day-to-day stresses and have to find ways to cope with the mental and physical strain and tension they create.
Pressures at work. Relationship hassles. Parenting demands. Financial worries. Traffic. Other events or thoughts that create tension. All of these contribute to the daily levels of mental stress we experience.
Illness, injury, lack of sleep or rest, allergic reactions. These are just some of the physical stresses that can affect our state of health and well being.
Diabetes also presents its own sources of stress.
Life with diabetes is unpredictable. You never can be certain of your blood glucose levels. You can do everything according to plan. Eat healthfully. Exercise regularly. Take your medication. And still there’s no guarantee that your blood glucose levels will be in range. Or that you’ll feel clear-headed. Or that you’ll have physical energy and stamina.
This unpredictability adds to the stress of life with diabetes.
Diabetes self-care is demanding. The first thing diabetes self-care demands is that you actively take care of yourself. All. The. Time. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday or how well you felt. Today is a new day and you start your self-care routine all over again.
With diabetes there are no rest days or cheat days.
Diabetes self-care is complex. There’s no one, single thing that you have to do to take care of yourself. There’s a multitude of things. Everyday there’s healthy habits to maintain and medication to take. But there’s also the things you can’t necessarily anticipate. Changes in routine or extra work stress or a family crisis to deal with.
And every single thing, anticipated or not, can affect your self-care routine and your diabetes.
How you respond to stress is everything
Stress is an inevitable fact of life. But how you respond to stress can make a world of difference.
Respond to stress by trying to power through it or by drinking alcohol to excess or by smoking cigarettes and you’re probably causing yourself more harm in the long run. These actions might provide temporary distraction, but they don’t really offer relief.
Mindful meditation provides the stress relief you’re looking for
Mindful meditation offers a quick, effective stress-reducing strategy that can be done anytime and anywhere.
I take a few minutes out each day to mentally step away from the busyness that is my day-to-day life. It provides both a mental and physical rest that relieves stress.
Each morning before starting my day and in the evening before dropping off to sleep I take a few minutes to meditate.
I find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. I close my eyes. And then I take three deep breaths.
During the first breath I think to myself “OK, body relax” and feel a wave of relaxation flowing from the top of my head, through my body, to the bottom of my feet.
With the second breath I tell myself “OK, mind relax” and picture a tranquil scene. It could be a garden or a mountain lake, whatever calming image. During this breath I put myself in the scene itself and let it surround me.
Finally, with the third breath I think “deeper” and really soak up the experience of being in a calm, relaxed state of being. There I stay, in the stillness, for several minutes.
When I’m ready to end my meditative session I count up from one to three. At three I open my eyes and tell myself I am “wide awake and feeling much better than before.”
It’s taken some practice to be able to reliably and consistently get to a meditative state. The first time I tried it didn’t really work. But I was patient and kept at it. Through practice I’ve been able to make meditation a reliable part of my daily routine.
How mindful meditation helps me
It increases the calm in my life. For a few minutes the thoughts in my head quiet down. Each morning I focus on a peaceful scene in my mind’s eye and create a peaceful state in my mind and body. Each evening I reflect on the people, experiences, and things I’m grateful for and then I calmly fall asleep.
It keeps me self-aware. Somehow I’m more plugged into how my body feels. I’m more aware of when I feel tired and need to rest. Or when I’m getting overwhelmed and need to step back. Or when I’m content and just need to enjoy the feeling.
It leads to better self-care decisions. Somehow the calm I experience in meditation anchors my feeling for the rest of the day. Even when things are at their most frenetic I find it easier to avoid getting caught up in the frenzy. With this calm, grounded feeling I’m able to take better care of myself.
Does mindful meditation sound like something that could help you? Would you be interested in adding to your daily routine? Or is it something you already do?